Using Genetic Evidence to Identify Ivory Poaching Hotspots
This activity guides the analysis of a published scientific figure from a study involving illegal elephant poaching. In this study, scientists used DNA profiling to determine where ivory seized from poachers had originated.
Each year, as many as 50,000 African elephants are killed for their ivory tusks. Scientists can identity elephant poaching hotspots by matching the genetic profiles of ivory seized from poachers to those of different elephant populations. The figure shows locations where elephants were likely to have been poached between 2006 and 2014. The “Educator Materials” document includes a captioned figure, background information, graph interpretation, and discussion questions. The “Student Handout” includes a captioned figure and background information.
Student Learning Targets
- Analyze and interpret data from a scientific figure.
- Describe how genetic data can aid law enforcement and conservation efforts.
allele frequency, DNA fingerprinting, DNA profiling, elephant, genetic profile, map, poacher, tusk
Wasser, S. K., L. Brown, C. Mailand, S. Mondol, W. Clark, C. Laurie, and B. S. Weir. “Genetic assignment of large seizures of elephant ivory reveals Africa’s major poaching hotspots.” Science 349, 6243 (2015): 84–87. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa2457.
The article's underlying data are available from the Dryad Digital Repository. An annotated version of the article is also available from Science in the Classroom.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS3-1, HS-LS4-1; SEP2, SEP4, SEP5
AP Biology (2019)
IST-1.P, ENE-4.B; SP1, SP4
IB Biology (2016)
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 2.1, 2.7, 9.9
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.A, ERT-2.I, EIN-4.B SP4, SP7
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Math.S-ID.3, Math.S-IC.1; MP2, MP5
Vision and Change (2009)
CC5; DP2, DP3